Process for Divorce With Minor Children
Process for Divorce with Minor Children
The process of filing for divorce begins when the Summons, Complaint for Divorce, Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act Affidavit, a Verified Statement, and in some cases an Application for Child Support Services have been completed, signed and notarized.
Next, the forms will be filed with the Circuit Court along with the filing fees, which are approximately $255.00. These fees can be waived if one cannot afford them.
A spouse will then be served with the divorce papers, and the proof of service will be filed with the Court clerk. Sometimes, to avoid confrontation, a spouse or his or her attorney can acknowledge service in person or at a law firm to avoid being embarrassingly serviced.
At this time, a spouse has twenty-one (21) days to respond to the complaint for divorce if he or she was personally served, or twenty-eight (28) days to respond if one is served by mail. A response to a divorce complaint is done by filing an Answer to each statement in the complaint either by agreeing or denying. Sometimes an Answer may include a Counter Complaint, which means that one’s spouse is asking for a different distribution of property and/or child custody arrangement. A Counter Complaint also is used when the non filing spouse wants the divorce to go through and the Counter Complaint is used to ensure the divorce is finalized even if the filing spouse wants to drop the case.
Next, both spouses must go through the Friend of the Court process, which requires them to attend an EIC (early intervention conference), and a SMILE (Start Making It Livable for Everyone) program. At the EIC, each spouse will have an opportunity to meet with the Friend of the Court and discuss the status of the divorce. The SMILE program, informs parents about how conflicts affect children, and how to communicate in a positive way.
After the SMILE Conference, the pre-trial proceeding begins with a Settlement Conference before the assigned judge. All important issues will be discussed, and the Judge will check on the progress of the case and set a preliminary trial date. Sometimes, a Judge will waive the six-month waiting period and enter a divorce judgment on the date of the Settlement Conference if the parties have reached an agreement and it is in the best interests of the minor child(ren). A scheduling order with deadlines to complete tasks will be given if spouses were unable to agree to a mutually equitable settlement. In addition, a judge may order a couple to go to mediation. However, this can be objected to if one’s spouse was emotionally, verbally or physically abusive.
A final hearing will be scheduled after the six (6) month waiting period, and a Notice of hearing will be completed and served on the other spouse. A proof of service will be filed with the Court clerk. In some counties, it is necessary to get approval and or documentation from the Friend of The Court or other office.
At the Final Hearing, the Judge may ask questions regarding the statements made in the Complaint for Divorce. When a Judgement of Divorce is granted, the Judge will sign all copies of the Judgement of Divorce, the Uniform Child Support Order, and Uniform Spousal Support Order if necessary.